Toyota Motorsport hopes for an all-out finish for its top off-road contender after two consecutive non-finishes this year, as well as another top-three finish for rookie off-road sensation Mark Cronjé who has taken the off-road scene by storm. -

- Apie Reyneke and Robin Houghton had two consecutive mishaps with very solid obstacles in their way in the last two events, preventing their Castrol Toyota Land Cruiser 4,5 EFi from finishing either event. -

- The first was an anthill the size of a small car, stuck away in the dense cane fields of the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 prologue in May this year, and the second obstacle was a thick tree hidden in the dust of another competitor they were trying to pass in the first leg of the Toyota 1000 Desert Race in Botswana last month. The crew completed the first day’s 500 km route after major repairs, but the next day the gearbox failed, due to damage from the impact with the tree the previous day. -

- “We are really going for a finish. We know the vehicle is much quicker than it was last year when we managed to win one of the eight events, but we haven’t been able to show the improved performance because we haven’t been able to finish either of the last two races,” said Reyneke from his cattle farm near Vryburg in the North West province. -

- “We did a lot of development work on the Cruiser before the Sugarbelt and the Desert Race events, but haven’t been able to put it to full use,” said Toyota Motorsport manager Whammy Haddad. -

- “This time we only repaired the damage caused by the tree that jumped in front of the car in the Desert Race, and made sure everything else was in perfect condition. Our problem is that since improving the performance of the car after its success finishing as runners-up in the opening event of the 2003 season, we haven’t had a clean run to determine the vehicle’s performance in racing conditions,” said Haddad. -

- “We still are not sure whether we are on the pace of the Nissan Hardbody trio of Giniel de Villiers, Hannes Grobler and Duncan Vos, but the Desert Race confirmed exactly that,” explained Haddad. He went on to say that Reyneke hit the tree in the dust from Vos’ vehicle after catching up with the Nissan and in the process of looking for an opportunity for a passing maneuver. -

- “Also Reyneke started about 6 minutes behind De Villiers and the gap remained the same throughout the first leg of 250 km in spite of the fact that the Nissan had the advantage of racing out front with no dust and no other competitors in front of them while Reyneke and Houghton had their work cut out for them with about six or eight competitors and their dust ahead of them.” -

- Some development work on the suspension of the Class E Castrol Toyota Hilux of Mark Cronjé and Chris Birkin should see the vehicle handling even better with improvements in ride comfort – especially the way it jumps over bumps. -

- “We had a problem that the back end jumped higher after going over a bump which forced the car to nose-dive, but it is much better now. We tested the vehicle a few times, but no test can really match real-life racing conditions,” Haddad said. -

- The similar Class E Castrol Toyota Hilux 4x4 of Kassie Coetzee and Ockie Fourie, powered by Toyota’s three-litre turbo diesel power unit, has also been improved as far as suspension is concerned, while privateer Piet Haasbroek has made some alterations to his Class D Castrol Land Cruiser after winning the class in the Desert Race. Haasbroek had to finish the second half of the event without the benefit of one of the front shock absorbers after the mounting broke and also suffered broken rear leaf springs. -

- Toyota’s efforts in the manufacturers championship will also be supported by a host of privateers, including brothers Jannie and Chris Visser who had their first outing in a new Class E Hilux the Desert Race, but unfortunately had to withdraw on the second day with gearbox problems. -

- The Oven Fresh Biscuits 500 starts on Friday (July 25) with a 40 km prologue around Mafikeng with the main race over 450 km on Saturday, starting at 08h00. -

- Highlights of the event, presented by Absa, will be broadcast on August 5 on SuperSport 1 at 22:00 with numerous repeats on SuperSport 1 and 2 the next day.

Original article from Car